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Same as it never was

There’s something about coming home. I’m currently in NJ where I grew up and yet, I’m not really where I once was. Since my Dad passed away way too early and entirely too suddenly in 2006 from liver cancer, my Mom has since moved out of the house where I spent my entire childhood and moved into what I think can only be described as a college dorm of 55 and olders. Yes, the sticky floors and keg parties have been replaced with lovely apartments and games of cards, but still, my Mom lives steps from many of her best friends who get together nearly everyday.

These friends, all who seem familiar and yet many whom I had never met– appear to thankfully absorb some of the pain of loss and help to create new, fun memories for this now much more independent woman. I admit, I miss my old house– the memories– the way things were– but even if we were there, things wouldn’t be the same, would they? And my Mom wouldn’t be finding this new “life” in her life.

When I was a teenager, whenever I returned home from camp, or later, from college, I marveled about what was different. The bathroom countertop always seemed shorter, somehow, my reflection just a little bit older, and my room just a little bit smaller.

Now I look for what’s the same. It’s comforting to see the same restaurants, the same people, and the same stores. It’s challenging to rely on “sameness” though, isn’t it? It’s almost unfair. We change and yet, expect things to stay the same. Sameness gives us a marker of progress, a feeling of comfort, and something to depend on.

As the children go back to school in many areas of the world, and many tears are shed (mostly by the parents who are stunned that time has flown by) how can we welcome change when we rely on sameness?

  1. Talk about the good times but don’t dwell on the past: It’s often fun to meet up with old friends, talk about old times, and relive the memories. However, living in the past is both dangerous and impractical.
  2. Look for the good in change: While change can be unsettling for anyone– whether we’re talking about a child or a parent–it’s vital that we identify what benefits have made themselves known due to this change. There’s a reason cliches like “every cloud has a silver lining” exist.
  3. Don’t make “better/worse” comparisons: When we talk about what was better in the past, especially when it comes to things we can not change, we are setting ourselves up to feeling bad. Yes, things may be different, and yes, you might want to improve your current circumstances, but that should urge you to look forward rather than back!
  4. Tame your fears about change: Change doesn’t need to be negative. Change can be quite wonderful. We all have fears that tell us to hold onto the status quo. But often, the most wonderful things happen when we’re willing to take a risk and embrace the future.

Remember– the way you look at change is going to influence the way your children approach it.

Here’s to growing up and smiling at what’s to come-

22 Ways to Teach Generosity to Children: Part 1

Do we have to wait for the holidays to teach values?

22 Ways to Teach generosity to children

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

This is part 1 of a 2 part article on teaching children to give outside of the “season of giving.”

As you know, I coach the top instructors, coaches, teachers, and leaders in the children’s after-school program industry. If you’re part of a Powerful Words member school lead by some of these industry leaders, you know that the powerful word of the month is generosity. Sometimes people are curious about why I don’t reserve such a concept for when we are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. Isn’t that the “season of giving?”

While holiday time is a wonderful time to talk about generosity and gratitude, I think it’s important to spread the word about giving throughout the year. During the summer, contributions to charities are down. People are thinking about vacations—not donations. The structure of the school day is out and the lazy summer schedule rules. But giving and generosity is just as important in August as it is in December, right?

As we are getting ready to go back to school in this half of the world, it’s only natural that our attention turns back to manners, giving, generosity and respect. These values help children to make and keep friends, excel in school, and feel fulfilled.

As we’ve recently talked about helping children create a “bucket list” that stresses giving over receiving, let’s delve deeper into the topic of children and generosity. This 2-part article contains 22 ways to teach children the gift of giving all year ‘round.

Here are the first 11:

(1) “Can Can:” Ask your children to go through the pantry at home and find any canned goods that haven’t been used within the last 6 months. If they’re not being eaten, give them to a family who can use them!

(2)Grocery Grab:” Request that your children pick out one item each at the grocery store to contribute to the local food pantry.

(3) Planned Percentages: Direct your children to set aside a certain percentage of their allowance, job money, or money that came through gifts for the purpose of giving to charity. Then help them choose a charity that is meaningful to them, allow them to research it, and motivate them to write the letter telling the charity how much and why they want to donate to them.

(4) Entertain “the troops:” Visit an assisted living facility or a nursing home so that your children can sing songs, play games, and read with the seniors there.

(5) Out of the Closet: After every other season, have a “closet day” in which your children spend some time going through their closet and bagging up the things that are too small or unused. Then drive them to the drop off center or charity and allow them to contribute their donations.

(6) Out of season giving: Ask your children to help make cards or wrap presents for people outside of your family and circle of friends. Perhaps these contributions would be for the local children’s hospital or other charity. It doesn’t need to be holiday time to do this! Be different!

(7) Adopt a friend: Invite someone who doesn’t have family nearby to share a meal or come over for a movie. You wouldn’t believe how grateful they will be just to feel included.

(8) A Giving Living: Talk to your children often about generosity, giving, and how they can give of themselves each day. It’s amazing that the more we give, the more we get out of living.

(9) “I just called to say…:”Encourage your children to call elderly family members—even extended family members– just to say hello, tell them what’s new, and ask them what they’re up to these days. A simple call can make someone’s day.

(10) Cards Held in High Regard: Ensure that your children send out thank you cards. If they’re very young, have them sign them in their own way—either with their name, a drawing, or decorative stickers.

(11) Characters with Character: Read books that illustrate the power of giving. Talk about the characters with your children and ask them how each character showed generosity of spirit. What did they admire?

Stay tuned for 11 more ways to teach children generosity outside of the season of giving on Wednesday! In the mean time, what are your ideas? What ideas sound great to you? What ideas will you try this month? The more we share these ideas, the more we can inspire our children to become generous givers.

Have a Powerful Day!

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No Time? 5 Tips to Spend Time with Children When You Have No Time to Spare

Strapped for Time? 5 Tips to Spend Time with Children when Parents Have No Time

By Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

The Powerful Parent Blog

Between work and martial arts and gymnastics and shopping and piano and swim lessons and school and dance class and babies and laundry and chores…we often find we’re strapped for quality time when it comes to spending time with our kids.

When Susan, one of my newest coaching clients, came to me a few months ago, she was nearing her whit’s end. Cody, her 7 year old son, was talking back to the teacher at school and getting into arguments with friends. “It’s been getting worse over the last year or so since my daughter, Kayla, was born. I love both of my kids but the baby takes up so much of my time and I know that Cody needs me too. I don’t know what to do.”

It was Dr. Anthony P. Witham who once said “children spell love…T-I-M-E.” He was definitely onto something. Unfortunately, if you are like most parents, time is a precious commodity that often eludes us. Whether we have a new job, a new baby, or we just need to make the coffee or strip the beds, we always seem to be wishing for a little bobble from Father Time’s Treasure Chest. We need more. We want more. But we just don’t have it. Does that mean we don’t love them? Of course not.

Spending quality time with our children is extremely important for their development. Note that I said “quality” not quantity. We must find ways to slow down and slip in some memorable time that will let our children know that we love and care for them.

Many children will let you know in their own “subtle” ways if they feel that you are not giving them the attention that they need. Some will withdraw while others will “act out.” You might see it when a child gives “lip” to a teacher, fights with another classmate or resorts back to behaviors that once got your attention like increased crying, throwing tantrums or even bed-wetting. This is a way to capture your attention, albeit often negative, so that they can enjoy “focused” time with you. Essentially the thought process is, “if I can’t get her attention by doing something good, I’ll get her attention by doing something bad.” Nobody wants that!

So how can you find time when you don’t have any to spend? Here are some of the ideas that I am working on with Susan:

(1) MAC time: In Susan’s case, this stands for “Mom and Cody time” but you get the drift. MAC time is special alone time with your child doing something you both enjoy. With Susan and her family, this is the time when Dad takes the baby (another benefit for the baby-quality time with Dad) and Mom spends time with Cody. This could mean going to a movie, going to the local theater to see “Cinderella,” or just sitting at the park on a bench and talking. The frequency of MAC time is up to you. With one of my clients, a single mother of 3, we devised a plan so that each Saturday she spends quality time with one of her children and the last Saturday of the month they spent quality time as a family. Make it work for you.

(2) Integrate Together Time into Daily Schedule: Children love to help. Do you have a mailing to do? Have them put the stamps on the envelopes. Need to go shopping? Make grocery shopping “fun time” with you. Need to make dinner? Let them help you by contributing to the preparation process. While it might be messier and it may time more time in the beginning, you will see that the children will become your greatest helpers and they will look back and remember that “before dinner” was always special time with you.

(3) Family Meetings: Once per month I have any “Powerful Families” working with me, run a family meeting in which they discuss how they can integrate better character into their home. For example, for “respect month” exercises like “brainstorm what your ideal family would look like if everyone was using respect” and questions like “what are some specific ways that we can show respect at home” are included. This process allows for children to contribute to the family atmosphere, show the children that their opinions are valued, and allow for the family to spend quality time together doing something meaningful. You can also take some of the discussions that are ensuing at your Powerful Words Member School and use them as a springboard to talk about important, meaningful things in a short amount of time.

(4) Phantom Time: Don’t have a moment to spare until about 3am? You can still let your children know that you care. Write notes and drop them into their lunch boxes. You can also make a recording that they can play in the morning if you can’t be there. Recording devises are inexpensive and easy to operate. While it isn’t ideal to rely solely on “phantom time,” it provides something so your children know you are thinking of them.

(5) Break time: Everyone is busy. Some are busier than others. Slide in a “break time” so that you and your children can spend 15 minutes or a half hour together. Set a timer if you need to so that everyone knows when “break time” starts and finishes. Give warnings to your children when 2 minutes are left so that it doesn’t come as a surprise. Don’t even have break time available? Wake your child up 15 minutes early so that you can spend a little extra time doing something fun in the morning. You might not think that 15 minutes is any significant time at all, but to a child, it is 15 extra minutes with you.

Spending time with your children provides them with opportunities to learn and to be heard. Most of all, it provides you and your children with time to connect. It’s these connections that make time precious. So leave the beds unstripped for another few minutes and put the coffee on an automatic timer. Take those extra moments to spend with your children. When you look back, you will be thankful for the memories.

Here’s to a Powerful Week!

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Photo credit: Jupiter Images

*Article originally written for Bay State Parent Magazine, award winning magazine Parent Magazine in Massachusetts

7 Ways to Help Your Child with ADHD

Helping Your Child Cope with ADHD

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

The other day I wrote about ADHD and it’s recent link to obesity and overweight. It brought up a few questions about how to address some of the typical issues that plague children with ADHD and how to best support children who are coping with the effects of ADHD.

I’m currently getting ready to present to a large group of after-school educators in Orlando, Florida on teaching children commitment, determination and stick-to-itiveness, but I wanted to take a moment to give you at least a few tips on how you can help your child with ADHD:

(1) Advocate for them to get services in school: Your child has a special condition that makes them eligible for special accommodations such as: Sitting closer to the front of the room and the teacher, shortened homework assignments and longer testing times.

(2) Get everyone organized: Many children with ADHD (as well as many people in general!) have trouble when things are not organized and also may have trouble organizing him or herself. Teach your children how to stay organized by providing specific places for the children to put things when not in use and sticking to a schedule as best as you can.

(3) Set and keep home rules: Be sure to set easy-to-follow rules that have clear and consistent consequences. If rules are broken, be sure that the consequence is enforced and appropriate.

(4) Reward positive behavior: It’s easy to focus on the “bad” when children are impulsive and unfocused. This is no time to “let sleeping dogs lie.” Be sure to reward your children for positive behavior with praise and attention. Let them know you appreciate them and their effort.

(5) Don’t “go it” alone: There are many people available to help. Your physician, your school officials, and your after-school activity teachers are on your side. If your child attends a Powerful Words Member School, this can be a very positive and fun way to help your child feel that they are making physical strides while at the same time learning values such as focus, determination, respect, and impulse control in their Powerful Words character lessons. As this month is “determination month” you can help your child set a goal and go after it—a great skill-building and self-esteem building month for children with ADHD as well as ALL children!

(6) Be a Positive Role Model: Show your child with ADHD as well as all your children how to stay organized, stay determined, and try again when things don’t go as planned. They are looking to you to see how you react! If you stay calm and handle things with grace, they are much more apt to follow your lead in time, than if you tend to fly off the handle when plans get changed or fall short.

(7) Don’t Compare: Allow everyone to strive to their personal best. Comparing your child with ADHD to other children, especially those within the family or close friends of the child, will only serve to embarrass and denigrate your child. It will NOT motivate them! Reward the effort your child puts in as well as the small successes he or she achieves. If s/he stays determined and reaches his or her goal, this is cause for celebration NOT time for comparison with others who may have done it better, quicker, or more neatly.

And of course, remember to breathe. Your ability to take each day as it comes and celebrate the good in your life and in your child’s life will go a long, long, way.

Have a Powerful Weekend!

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ADHD Can Increase Obesity & Overweight in Children, Study Says

ADHD and Weight in Children…and other facts about ADHD in kids

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Given the “war on obesity” and the increasing number of children being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), the results of a recent study is a real double whammy. According the July issue of Pediatrics, children with ADHD have a 50% higher risk of being medically overweight if they are not taking medication for their condition. Interestingly, those who were taking their medication were much more likely to be underweight.

The Study:

  • Who was studied? 63,000 children and teens between the ages of 5 and 17 years old. The data came from the 2003-2004 U.S. National Survey of Children’s Health.
  • Where were they studied? Brown Medical School in Providence, Rhode Island.
  • By Whom? Molly E. Waring and Kate L. Lapane, researchers from the department of community health.
  • Interesting Fact: 1 in 5 children with ADHD are said to be clinically overweight.
  • Why we need to be careful: On the one side, we need to make sure that one problem does not beget another, such that a problem with focus also connects to a problem with health, but on the other hand, we need to make sure that we don’t make our children “scale” obsessed and give them body image issues on top of everything else! We know from other studies that girls who weigh themselves often are more likely than other girls to engage in unhealthy dieting and go up and down in weight. The girls who are most scale-obsessed, according to a 2006 study out of the University of Minnesota, tend to skip meals, use diet pills, abuse laxatives, smoke, binge, and vomit to lose weight. Help your children stay healthy, but don’t allow them to get crazy about weight.

Arguments against these findings:

(1) Some researchers believe that because the diagnosis of obesity in children and the diagnosis for ADHD are widespread, you can’t say that the overlap is due to a cause-and-effect connection rather than just coincidence.

(2) Some researchers agree that there is a connection and this is nothing new.

(3) Some researchers believe that there is a connection but we don’t know about any cause-and-effect link. In other words, we can’t say that ADHD CAUSES obesity and overweight nor can we say that obesity and overweight CAUSES ADHD.

Facts about ADHD

  • It’s estimated that between 3 and 5 percent of children have ADHD. In the United States, that equals approximately 2 million children.
  • The top characteristics of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
  • Symptoms: Fidgeting, squirming, trouble listening, difficulty playing quietly, said to talk a lot and often, often interrupt or intrude impulsively, easily distracted, lack focus, difficulty finishing tasks.
  • Symptoms appear early in the child’s life—but since ALL young children tend to fidget and become impulsive to a degree, it’s important to see a physician for confirmation of diagnosis.
  • Disorders that can sometimes go along with ADHD: Learning disabilities, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Tourette Syndrome, Conduct Disorder, Bipolar Disorder.

Some Possible Treatment Options for ADHD:

(1) Medication

(2) Behavioral Modification

(3) A combination of both Medication and Behavior Modification

(4) Psychotherapy

(5) Social Skills Training

(6) ADHD coach for child

(7) Counseling

(8 ) EEG Biofeedback

(9) ADHD Diet

(10) Alternative Medicine

Have a child or know a child with ADHD? What are your thoughts on the July Pediatrics study? Do you find any challenges with ADHD and the weight of your child? What has worked for you?

Looking forward to hearing from you-

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Cartoon above found here

Children and Determination: What Research Tells Us

I’ve Got a No-Quit-Go-For-It Attitude! What Research Can Tell Us about Children and Determination

As you now know, the Powerful Word of the Month is Determination.

Wish your children showed more stick-to-itiveness and determination? Turns out, it’s a very important predictor to success. Researchers have suggested a strong link between enhanced self-determination skills and doing better in school and out of schools for students with and without disabilities. Here are the details:

  • Let them get involved: Allowing children to use their self determination skills and providing the opportunity for them to do so, can be enormously helpful in their academic outcomes. When students with disabilities get involved in planning, decision making, and implementation of their educational programs they tend to achieve better academic success than their peers who did not get involved and use these self-determination skills. Studies have also found positive results when students get involved or take a leadership role in determining their IEP (Individualized Education Programs) and transition goals.
  • Support their autonomy: Research shows that when we support the autonomy and independence of students within the classroom, students are more self-determined, motivated, and more apt to perceive themselves as competent. This, in turn, predicted the larger likelihood of students staying in school rather than dropping out.
  • Understand your parenting style: Parenting style can have an impact on children’s acquisition and development of self-determination skills. Parents who involve their children in more decision-making, were more likely to foster determination skills in their children. Interestingly, researchers have found that Caucasian parents were more likely to foster these self determination skills in their children as compared to Asian and African American parents. This may be due, in part, to cultural differences, expectations, and norms.
  • Determine if you’re Allowing your Child to Live Up to Their Own Potential: Parents with typically developing, non-special needs children, were more apt to foster determination skills in their children than parents of children with special needs. Specifically, parents of children with disabilities were less likely to involve them in household chores and interacting with salespeople, to allow them to make their own decisions, to teach goal setting and recognition of their weaknesses, and to involve them in making choices and decisions when dealing with unexpected and undesired behaviors. These parents also tended to exert more control in their children’s post-school career and living arrangements. These students wound up with less determination themselves.
  • Know what to teach: Parents can help support children’s self determination skill development by teaching certain skills at home and enrolling their children in programs that help to foster development in the following areas: Choice Making, Decision-Making, Problem-Solving, Independent Living, Risk-Taking, Safety Skills, Goal Setting & Attainment, Self observation, Evaluation, Reinforcement, Self instruction, Self understanding, Leadership, & Self Awareness. (We will be going over many of these skills at our Powerful Words Member Schools this month—and you can also reinforce these skills when out in the community!)

Looking forward to a Powerful Month!

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How to Write a Thank-you Note to Teachers: 9 Things to Remember

When the truth feels so good: Writing a Thank-you Note to the Teacher

December 2009 update:

Would you please vote for me for best Parenting Blog?  It only takes a moment! Thank you!!!

It’s the end of the school year. Many of you are saying, “thank goodness.” But let’s not forget to say “thank-you” to the teachers.

We’ve talked about gratitude and 10 great ways to say thank-you to teachers in the past, but I bring it up again since we are in the home stretch– Spring Fever is just about to turn into Summer Fervor in many parts of the world. Our minds might be on getting out but there is something we must do first.

Teachers, coaches, instructors, tutors and mentors have worked hard this year. You might not have always loved them, you may not have always agreed with them, but all of us can come up with a list of ways that they’ve been helpful. Think for a moment about the times when they went out of their way for you or your children. Think of all lessons they’ve taught your children. How did they show their understanding? How did they share their knowledge? How did they make something a little easier for you—and yet made your children challenge themselves in ways that they couldn’t have done themselves?

What to write in a thank-you note to the teacher:

Be specific: When writing a thank-you letter to the teacher, don’t fall back on overused phrases and colloquialisms. It’s important to customize the thank-you letter, so that it can only be for that one person—that teacher—impossible to interchange with another. What is it about that teacher that you appreciate?

Refrain from saying things like “Thank you for teaching class to my child. He learned a lot.”

Instead, write something like “I want to express my sincerest gratitude for your hard work this year. You should be congratulated for the innovative lesson plans you created. Johnny particularly liked your science experiment with the potato and the match. He still talks about it today.”

Use Stationary or Cards that Allows you to Express Yourself: Pre-written thank-you cards with fancy writing and a make-shift poem doesn’t really say a lot about you or the teacher.

  • Choose a blank card where you can write your own thoughts.
  • Buy or make some stationary with your child.
  • Fold a piece of card stock in half and have your child draw a picture on the front especially for the teacher.
  • When a group is involved, you can get creative! Take some pictures and use that to decorate your note of thanks. For example, check out this cute idea

Use a Nice, Respectful Greeting: Don’t just write the message. Start with a formal greeting. People often forget to this in our “rush, rush” world. Or worse yet—they use something like “Hi” of “Hey.” As my mother used to say to me, “Hey is for horses, Robyn, start with a nice greeting.” And remember, people’s favorite word in the world? Their name. Something like “Dear Coach Suzie” will work fine.

Use your own handwriting: While you might not think it looks as nice as a type-written note, handwritten notes always beat out any font. It’s personal! Put pen to paper and take your time. The teacher will certainly appreciate it.

Be gracious: For those of you who have loved this year’s teacher or coach, the toughest part might be finding just a few lines to sum it up. For those of you who had a frustrating year with a teacher, the toughest part might be finding something nice to say. You may have had a tough time with this teacher and you may not have appreciated all of his or her choices, but there must be something you can be thankful for this year.

Again, refrain from, “I’m writing to say thank-you. You were helpful and fun. We appreciate it.”

Instead say, “We are so thrilled that you were Laura’s teacher this year. Thank-you for taking the time to help her with her math homework—she had been struggling until you taught her those little “tricks.” It really made a difference as you know!”

Talk about how the lessons will influence your child: The lessons your child learns don’t lose their impact when your child walks out the door. They stick with your child. The best teacher or coach will have taught lessons that last indefinitely. I still remember the teachers that taught me to believe in myself and cite them often in my presentations and trainings. Be sure to recognize these important feats.

Refrain from saying; “We’ll remember you fondly.”

And instead, say something like;

Peter will always remember when you said; “You have terrific, creative ideas—write them down because they’ll help a lot of people one day.” He now has a journal filled with ideas for inventions and experiments he wants to do. Because of you, he has taken such an interest in learning that will stick with him always.

Talk about the past and the future: The teacher has been helping your child for quite some time! Especially when dealing with a retiring teacher or a coach/instructor who has been part of your child’s life for a long time, it’s important to talk about the beginning. What did you think when you first met this person? What did your child think?

Refrain from saying; “Chris was glad he got you as his coach. He hopes to see you next year.”

Instead say: Chris liked you from the moment he met you. He said to me; “Mr. Don is so cool!” You certainly did not disappoint! He told me yesterday, “I want to make sure we see Mr. Don this summer and join his class when he starts in September again!” We’ll certainly be there when you start up classes again in the Fall—and we’ll be there this Summer for the school bash!

Even if your child is continuing classes throughout the summer, like many Powerful Words Member programs such as martial arts, gymnastics, swim, or dance, it’s important to take time to thank them for the work they’ve already done this year—just tell them that you’ll see them tomorrow or next week in class instead of next year!

Thank them again: After all, this is the point of the note!

Sign it: Believe it or not, people forget. Be sure to let them know who you are! Be gracious and sign it kindly.

Refrain from signing it:

–Joe Murphey

And instead sign it with one of these and your name:

  • Sincerely
  • With Kind regards
  • Warmest regards
  • Yours truly
  • Best regards
  • Our deepest thanks
  • Love (in certain cases)

And this should go without saying—I certainly hope it does—don’t email it! Send the letter through the snail mail or give it directly to the person. It’s personal and many teachers, coaches, and educators want to keep these things in files, up on their desk, or in a special place where they can look at it.

Here’s to gratitude—we love our educators!

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7 Tips to Help Children Learn Good Money Habits: Interview with Money Man, Sam Renick

How can our children and teens get honest about their money habits?

Dr. Robyn interviews Mr. Sam Renick about teaching children financial literacy

Thank you for joining us here at the Powerful Parent Blog, Mr. Renick. I know you’ve spent a great deal of time working with children on creating a “habit” of earning and spending money wisely through your children’s character “Sammy, the get in the habit, rabbit. In the spirit of honesty month, you really help them to get “honest “with their money habits. So let’s jump right in so we can help parents teach their children financial literacy, a vital skill everyone should learn, and that we’ve been discussing lately and that we’ve discussed previously on the blog.

What kind of information do you share with children about money?

I spend a lot of time talking with elementary school students sharing with them: why I think saving money is a great habit; how it makes them strong and why habits are important. I let them know the key reason why a habit like saving money is important and powerful is because it has a predictable outcome. In other words, the habit of saving money is reliable. It’s dependable. It’s true. It’s honest.

What happens when children and teens make a habit of saving money?

When we make a habit of saving money we can honestly predict our money will grow. We can also honestly predict: (1) we will be better prepared for emergencies; (2) we will be better positioned to make dreams come true; (3) we will be better prepared to help ourselves and others; (4) we will be better prepared to get what we want and need, when we want and need it; and (5) we will have more choices, freedom, independence and security.

And if we don’t “get honest” with ourselves and make it a habit?

As you can imagine, the opposite it true. If we fail to be honest with ourselves about our money habits and routinely exceed our budgets, spend more than we make, and carry credit debt, then it should not come as a surprise that we will have less freedom, more worries, more stress and more strain on relationships.

What can parents do to help their children develop smart money habits?

  1. Walk the talk – part 1. I don’t know of anything that’s more honest or “powerful” (to use your word, Dr. Robyn) than leading by example. If you’re already doing a good job, keep it up. If not, start by improving your own understanding of personal finance by reading a good book on the subject. I recommend “The Way to Wealth,” by Benjamin Franklin and “Raising Money Smart Kids,” by Janet Bodnar.
  2. Walk the talk – part 2. If I could only give a person one piece of advice regarding money it would be this – “pay yourself first.” So, if you are not saving or investing, start. If you are in credit card debt, start systematically paying it off. Get committed to living a debt free life. This will set an excellent example for kids to follow. The web is filled with resources and discussion groups that can help. MSN Money, CNN Money, Yahoo are all good places to begin.
  3. Talk regularly with kids about money. Studies routinely cite lack of communication between parents and children as a common obstacle to raising money literate kids. Take advantage of natural opportunities to involve kids in money related discussions while shopping, budgeting, making lists, recycling, and paying bills. The more responsibility you can appropriately give them for activities the better. Also be sure to initiate dialogue about dreams, goals, home ownership, investments, etc.
  4. Start early with books and music. Expose children to books and music about money early and often. Naturally, I recommend our books and music. For older kids, I love Chad Foster’s “Financial Literacy for Teens,” and David Bach’s “The Automatic Millionaire.”
  5. Instill the habit. Get your child a transparent piggy bank, or better yet create your own family savings bank. Our family did this when we were kids using a Sparklett’s bottle. We all loved it and it really promoted discussion about how to use the money once the bottle was full. When the bank is full take your child to the bank or credit union, start an account and deposit the savings. Review their statements with them regularly.
  6. Affirmations. Provide kids with fun slogans to repeat. Here are a few of Sammy’s favorites: Saving is a great habit! Saving makes me strong! Change adds up! From every dollar, save a dime! Debt Stinks! I am sure you have some of your favorites. Post the slogans around the house or paint them onto your family savings jar.
  7. Allowance. Give your child an opportunity to manage money. Be consistent and supportive. Allow kids to make their own decisions and mistakes within reason. For tips on allowance, check out David McCurrach’s “Allowance Magic.” It’s an excellent read.

Thank you, Sam, for being with us today and giving us these very important tips!

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Who is Sam Renick and how can you get in touch?

Sam X Renick is an award winning author, songwriter, trainer, social entrepreneur, and co-creator of the children’s character ‘Sammy, the get in the habit rabbit.’ He is also the founder of The It’s a Habit! Company, Inc., a socially conscious publishing and education company dedicated to helping children and families develop good habits, especially saving money. You can learn more about Sammy, Sam, It’s a Habit! and their mission at www.itsahabit.com

Raising Healthy Kids: 7 Ways to Get Children to Eat A Healthy Lunch

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Parents: Could getting your child involved in making lunch simply end up creating a mess of unappetizing foods not even appealing to a hungry dog? It doesn’t have to be! (Enjoy this short piece of nostalgia on Lilly Tomlin’s Edith Ann, creating her lunch masterpiece from Sesame Street, above.)

Since the article on vending machines and poor eating in schools , I’ve received some questions from parents who want to know about how to get their children to eat a better lunch while at school.

No, I’m not a proponent of bribing or threatening children to eat lunch and I’m certainly not a fan of the whole “clean your plate club” way of thinking. But there are some ways that make it more likely that your children will eat a healthy, nourishing lunch.

I know, it’s sometimes hard enough to get children to eat healthy, nutritious foods while their at home—how are you supposed to help them choose healthy foods while they’re in school? And all the competition with processed, colorful Lunchables, overly sweetened juices, frosted pop tarts, and imitation pressed fruit in the shapes of animals and cartoons—what carrot stick and whole wheat bread sandwich is going to stack up?

The truth is, while you may not always be able to choose what they eat that day, you may be able to influence what choices they have to choose from!

Here’s some ways to get started:

(1) Get the children involved in the weekly menu: When children get to choose what they’re going to eat, they are much more likely to eat it. If they can accompany you to the grocery store, that would be a great start. Have a farmer’s market or farm stand nearby? Going together would be a gift. However, if you’re strapped for time, pull up a chair and have a weekly meeting with your children about what they’d like to eat that week. For young children, give them a few choices to choose from so that they don’t get overwhelmed. Have them choose which protein, veggie, fruit, carb, and desert or snack they’ll have in their bag each day of the week. Post up their choices on a sheet with their name on it so that everyone can see it. Get them excited about the good choices they’ve made and praise them for taking care of their body. This will certainly help them to feel powerful!

(2) Keep it interesting: You can expand on your children’s choices and introduce them to things they may not have tried before. My brothers used to love cereals when they were little. Mom got creative and made “Mom’s Magical Mixed Up Cereal” that was comprised of little bits of this cereal and that. While it was comprised to make use of small bits of leftovers in several boxes, you can do the same to up the nutritional content and fun factor. Also, offer alternatives. If they ask for candy or chocolate for their snack, you can offer a great alternative like a trailmix or a homemade granola that the two of you make together with coconut, oats, nuts, and chocolate chips. If they like fruit, offer it dried, sauced, whole, or baked. If they like sandwiches, offer bagels, crackers, wraps, or special breads you can make together one weekend in your kitchen or bread maker. Why not?

(3) Don’t forget about last night’s dinner: I was never much of a lunch person when I was little. I like hot food much better than wilted salads and lunch meats. So Mom often packed me little bits of “last night’s dinner” and tended to make extra when we were having chicken cutlets or soups. My favorite lunch was always soup in a thermos. It was always hot and predictable and never got smooshed or soggy. Take a look at what healthy foods your child really likes and see how you can give it to him for lunch.

(4) Make food fun: Lunch is a social time for children and “best friends” for a day can be made over who gives who a piece of their watermelon. In first grade I remember Jenny Colona told me she’d be my “very best friend” if I traded her a pretzel for a potato chip. Anyway, it may not seem important to you, but it’s important to them. After all, socialization, negotiation, and sharing are an important part of growing up. Cut sandwiches into fun shapes and sections. Put in a bunch of sharable baby carrots, raisins, or animal crackers. Provide finger foods like cut up fruit, “baby sandwiches” and wheel-shaped pasta salads. Construct a “make your own” taco or pizza so that your children can put together their own concoction (while you still know that the food isn’t processed and fake). Give them things to dunk and dip, roll, or smoosh together.

(5) A little can go a long way: I mean this is 2 ways. First, many children don’t eat a whole lot at lunch. Don’t overwhelm them with huge servings. Instead, give them little things that are nutritious and fun. Secondly, you may not want them snacking on huge donuts and candy bars, but you can provide them with a carefully chosen small sweet that will keep them from eying their friend’s HoHo.

(6) Get them to help pack the lunch: Again, when children are involved, they take more ownership and are more likely to eat what’s packed. Get them to scoop their trail mix into a container or help you cut out stars and hearts into their sandwiches. Get them to get the peanut butter out of the fridge and pick which fruit they want to go into their fruit salad for lunch. If they want fruit and Jell-O, have them help you make it.

(7) Provide them with some love: Let your kids know you’re thinking about them even when they’re at school. You can slip a note of love into their lunch box and tell them what special thing you’re going to do after school. You can put a holiday card or special sticker in there on Valentine’s Day or the first day of spring. Why not put a funny joke in their lunch box or little cartoon? Your child will love you for it!

It takes some imagination and at first, some additional time, however, it’s certainly worth it. It allows your children to get the nutrition they need to pay attention in school and feel their best. And of course, that give all of us piece of mind.

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